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Amid Turmoil, Activision's Call Of Duty Machine Grinds Ahead With Vanguard

Sledgehammer's WWII shooter features a diverse cast but comes as Activision Blizzard faces workplace lawsuit

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WWII soldiers from Call of Duty: Vanguard charging into battle.
Image: Activision

Call of Duty: Vanguard got its first extended trailer today and a release date of November 5. The announcement comes as publisher Activision Blizzard faces an unprecedented lawsuit by California state regulators alleging years of workplace misconduct and discirimiation.

The trailer for the latest game in the annual blockbuster series showed a diverse cast of soldiers—men and women—fighting across every front in World War II from Western Europe to the Pacific Ocean. “Experience World War II and the creation of Special Forces through the eyes of 4 multinational heroes,” the publisher tweeted.

On the multiplayer side, Vanguard will feature 16 core maps and four maps for a new Champion Hill game mode. It will also have cross-play and cross-progression and a Zombies mode developed by fellow Call of Duty studio Treyarch. Vanguard will also be integrated into Warzone as well with the free-to-play battle royale getting a new map and weapons around the same time the new game launches.

Call of Duty: Vanguard was first officially announced earlier this week with a short teaser trailer surveying the wreckage of several WWII battlefields. Prior to that, details like the name Vanguard, a WWII setting, and Sledgehammer Games leading development on the game, leaked online and in various news reports. As with last year’s Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War, players were invited to learn more about the new shooter in Warzone first by completing a mission called Battle of Verdansk that went live earlier today. (I still haven’t been able to get into a match).

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Today’s reveal comes as Activision Blizzard reckons with allegations of widespread sexual harassment and discrimination from a lawsuit filed by California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing last month. In addition to instances of sexual misconduct, discrepancies in pay and promotions, and racist treatment of employees of color, the lawsuit also alleged a general “frat boy” workplace culture at the company where some male employees would “proudly come into work hungover, play video games for long periods of time during work while delegating their responsibilities to female employees, engage in banter about their sexual encounters,” and “talk openly about female bodies and joke about rape.”

Activision Blizzard originally dismissed the lawsuit as “in many cases false descriptions” of the company’s past, and the result of “irresponsible behavior from unaccountable State bureaucrats.” In response, thousands of current and former Activision Blizzard employees signed an open letter and hundreds engaged in a walkout to protest the company’s response and demand specific steps to make it a safer and more equitable place to work.

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Among other things, a newly formed worker group called the ABK Worker Alliance has called for an end to mandatory arbitration clauses, greater pay transparency, and more diverse hiring practices. Activision Blizzard has said it is aware of the demands but so far refused to acknowledge them directly with employees, despite a series of ongoing listening sessions it’s currently engaged in across its global offices.

Update - 3:43 p.m. ET, 8/19/21: As VGC points out, Vanguard’s trailer omits any mention of publisher Activision. In the past, Call of Duty trailers have featured the company’s logo prominently at the end. This year’s only mentions Sledgehammer Games and other supporting Activision studios.